Monday, October 15, 2012
Circling the Wagons: Seeking Authenticity and Understanding
It's once again Circling the Wagons Conference time...another opportunity to congregate with fellow LGBT Mormons and our allies to encourage dialogue and understanding about what is probably the most misunderstood issue facing members of the Church...how we gay people fit within the greater Mormon community, if we fit at all.
The theme of this year's conference is "Seeking authenticity and understanding". I can't think of a better conference objective.
Several weeks ago, I was involved in a conversation with an active Latter-day Saint about homosexuality. After five frustrating minutes it became clear that real dialogue was not going to take place. Why? Because she insisted that if we were going to continue our discussion, I had to use "gay" only as an adjective, I had to recognize that the final authority on homosexuality is the scripture as interpreted by the Brethren, and that I had to admit that homosexuality was a life style rather than a matter of nature.
This good member of the Church was well-meaning, I'm sure, but she was open minded only to the extent that my feelings and beliefs fit nicely within her own preconceived paradigm. While she repeated her mantra of support and fellowship over and over as she declared her desire to "truly understand", what became clear was her intention to convince me to accept her version of truth and return to orthodoxy after my wayward travels in sin.
As we were about to go our separate ways, she condoled with me about "[my] terrible situation," then said as tears rolled down her cheek, "I empathize with the awful burden you carry and I pray every day that the Lord will lighten your load."
There was real shock on her face when I declared gently, yet emphatically, "While I'm grateful for your concern, I am really in no need of those prayers. I am the way God made me and as a result have never felt happier in my life." As I said those words, I was overcome with a sense of peace and confidence that originates only with the Spirit.
That experience reinforced my knowledge that the Lord understands and accepts.
I was sitting with a group of friends last night, all of whom were connected with Mormonism in one way or another. We had come out about the same time. We had all been married. Despite the fact that we were each facing challenges or obstacles of one sort or another, we had never been happier.
Why? Because we are living lives of truth and integrity. We all could look in the mirror each morning and feel the joy that comes with knowing we are finally being true to ourselves and the world.
When I left the closet behind, I became authentic, real, in a way I never was when I lived in the false world my family, the Church and I had created to sustain a lie.
What this well-meaning woman fails to grasp, let alone understand, is that my "awful burden" disappeared when I came out, that my "load" evaporated when I recognized I was whole, and that I felt God's arms surround me when I realized that I was loved by him because I am a gay man, not despite of that fact.
I now live an authentic life. I am truly happy. At its most basic, I understand that being gay is not a challenge, a trial or a burden, but a gift from God that brings me joy.
Members of the Church need to understand that the real burden of homosexuality is the one they place on us gay people, the stigma of being different. Once they as a people recognize that this difference is our strength and God's gift, that burden will finally disappear.
Please plan to attend the Circling the Wagons Conference, November 2-4, in Salt Lake City. My dear friend, Invictus Pilgrim, and I will be delivering the keynote addresses during Saturday's opening session. For more information and to register for the event, go to http://circlingthewagons.org.